The 11-year veteran forward, who missed the past eight games due to a rib injury, rejoined the Storm for Tuesday night’s game against Las Vegas on the same day forward Alysha Clark sat out the for the first time this season.
Crystal Langhorne couldn’t have timed her return any better.
The 11-year veteran forward, who missed the past eight games due to a rib injury, rejoined the Storm for Tuesday night’s game against Las Vegas on the same day forward Alysha Clark sat out the for the first time this season, because of a sprained right ankle.
Still, simply plugging Langhorne into Clark’s spot in the starting lineup is easier than it sounds.
After Langhorne’s three-week layoff, coach Dan Hughes wants to ease her back into the rotation and plans to use her sparingly off the bench while building her minutes over the next several games.
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“It will take a little time for her to get back to feeling really comfortable out there,” Hughes said. “We’re starting the process right now, and we’ll let it grow a little bit.”
During her absence, the Storm posted a 6-2 record.
More to the point, first-year Storm forward Natasha Howard has flourished in the role Langhorne has occupied since she came to Seattle in 2014.
Howard has emerged as an All-Star candidate in a breakout season in which she’s averaging career highs in scoring (15.0 points), rebounds (6.7) and blocks (1.7).
During her WNBA career that began with a six-year stint in Washington, Langhorne has averaged 12.2 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 57.2 percent from the field while starting the past 10 seasons.
However, she lost her starting job after the season opener and moved to the bench for two games, averaging 3.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 13.3 minutes before getting hurt.
The time away was a blessing in disguise for Langhorne, who has played the second-most games (336) among WNBA players since she entered the league in 2008.
“I didn’t enjoy it and it’s always tough, but being out gave my body some time to rest,” said Langhorne who has played year-round the past 10 years. “This is the longest I’ve sat out since college.
“Plus, I got to see a lot of things sitting out. It gave me a different perspective, like seeing little things to help the post players.”
Langhorne is wary her return might disrupt chemistry on a Seattle team that’s third in the WNBA standings at 8-3 and looking like an early title contender.
“I not trying to think about it too much,” said Langhorne, who suffered a costochondral separation, in which the rib detaches from the sternum. “We’re playing really well right now. What I’m going to try to do when I come in and when I get my minutes is keep us at a high level. No drop-offs. That’s what I’m focusing on right now.
“Bring what I bring. Not being worried about my scoring or things like that because I’m not going to be playing as much, so you can’t really worry about that.”
Hughes is looking forward to experimenting with big lineups that include 6-foot-4 forward Breanna Stewart with Howard and Langhorne, who are both 6-2.
“I have really felt the presence of (the bench) in us finding a way to win in the last two games,” Hughes said. “Obviously, Lang helps with that. How could she not?”
In last Friday’s 103-92 win over Connecticut, backup guard Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tallied a season-high 18 points. Hughes also credited the reserves as being the catalyst to a 96-85 victory against Chicago last week.
“We’ve gotten some amazing production from every part of the roster, and that’s the key,” Langhorne said. “That’s what it takes to have a great season.”